If you’re like most people, you probably want to keep your skin looking as good as possible for as long as possible. Fortunately, there are plenty of great products out there that can help you do just that. One such category of products is retinol.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best retinol serums and retinol creams available in Australia. So if you’re curious to know what they are, read on.
Retinol is one of the most commonly used and well-known forms of retinoids used in the skincare industry. It is available in various formulations that are suited to different skin tolerances and do not necessitate a prescription, offering a convenient and accessible option for skincare enthusiasts.
Retinoids are a group of chemical compounds that are chemically related to vitamin A. They include retinol, retinaldehyde, retinoic acid (also known as tretinoin), and various synthetic forms.
The Benefits of Retinol
Retinol is known as a powerful anti-ageing ingredient, however, it has plenty of benefits when it comes to overall skin health and appearance.
“By promoting the turnover of skin cells, it effectively removes dead skin cells from the surface, allowing healthy and youthful cells to emerge. This powerful ingredient not only acts as an exceptional anti-aging agent by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but it also addresses pigmentation issues, and acne, and helps to smoothen the skin’s texture” she explained.
How to Choose the Right Retinol Product
When it comes to selecting the best retinol product for your skincare routine, several factors need to be considered. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:
1. Retinol Concentration
The concentration of retinol in a product plays a crucial role in its effectiveness. Look for products with a retinol concentration ranging from 0.1% to 1% for optimal results. Starting with a lower concentration and gradually increasing it can help your skin adjust to the active ingredient.
2. Formulation and Delivery System
Retinol products come in various formulations, including creams, serums, and oils. Consider your skin type and personal preferences when selecting a formulation. Additionally, products that utilise encapsulated or time-release delivery systems can enhance the stability and efficacy of retinol.
3. Additional Ingredients
Pay attention to the other ingredients present in the retinol product. Antioxidants like vitamin C and E, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and soothing agents like aloe vera can complement the effects of retinol and provide added benefits to your skin.
Best Retinol Serum Australia
Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3
Many skincare enthusiasts are opting for retinal products given their potency and effectiveness while providing similar results to retinol.
One of the best-rated retinal products is Medik8’s Crystal Retinal 3 — it’s also her pick for the best retinoid product.
“This powerful formula containing retinal will improve fine lines, brighten the skin tone and increase the skin’s firmness and help to treat acne. It is a great product for anyone of any age to start with when introducing vitamin A to their routine”.
Retinal 3 is a gentle, yet effective product suited to normal skin types. Users love the lightweight creamy texture, fast absorption and subtle smell.
Retinal Concentration: 0.03%
Formulation: Creamy serum
Key Ingredients: Encapsulated Retinaldehyde, Patent-Pending Stabilisation System, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E & Glycerin
Benefits: Minimal irritation, luxe texture, lightly-scented, hydrating and nourishing
La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum
The Retinol B3 Anti-Ageing Serum from La Roche Posay is a powerful, yet gentle, anti-ageing serum that has been specifically designed for sensitive skin. Formulated with Vitamin B3 and pure retinol, this serum works to resurface and renew the skin, targeting fine lines, deep wrinkles and dark spots for an even complexion.
Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) works to soothe and keep skin soft, plump and supple by improving the skin’s ability to retain moisture; retinol helps restore the skin’s precious moisture barrier. The result is hydrated, smooth and glowing skin that looks visibly younger.
Retinol Concentration: 0.1% pure retinol & 0.2% retinol palmitate
Key Ingredients: Pure & Gradual Retinol, Vitamin B3 and Glycerin
Benefits: Suitable for sensitive skin, combines instant release and gradual release active ingredients, not sticky or greasy residue
ALPHA-H Vitamin A Serum with 0.5% Retinol
The Vitamin A Serum from Australian cosmeceutical brand Alpha-H is a powerful antioxidant serum that offers a range of benefits for your skin.
Containing 0.5% retinol, this serum is particularly suitable for retinol newbies and those who don’t regularly use AHAs or other retinol products. This is ideal for anyone looking to avoid irritation or redness.
This serum works to renew the skin, exfoliate dead skin cells, and hydrate the skin. The 0.5% retinol supports skin renewal, tomato fruit extract for stabilisation and antioxidant benefits, and evening primrose oil to restore the skin’s barrier function and protect against free radicals.
With consistent use over time, it works to improve the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles, promoting a more youthful complexion.
Retinol Concentration: 0.5%
Key Ingredients: Tomato fruit extract, squalane, evening primrose and macadamia oils
Benefits: Ideal for retinol beginners, vegan & cruelty-free, minimal irritation, lightweight texture and fast absorption
Frank Body Rewind Retinol Serum
Known for its best-selling body coffee scrub, Frank Body has since expanded to a range of highly-rated skincare products. One of the most popular is the Rewind Retinol Serum which users have described as “game-changing” when it comes to delivering healthier-looking skin.
The advanced formula reduces fine lines, smooths skin texture, and fades dark spots while improving firmness, brightness, and tone. This is all down to their unique blend of ingredients.
It contains 1% of vegan retinol for skin rejuvenation benefits, niacinamide B3 to minimise pores and acne, and ginger extracts to soothe and calm irritated skin. Adding pea peptides provides moisture to the skin to avoid dryness and flakiness often associated with retinol use.
Overall, it’s an affordable, lightweight serum that absorbs easily into the skin and has a neutral scent for those who like to avoid fragrance.
Retinol Concentration: 1%
Key Ingredients: 1% retinol, Niacinamide (B3) Ginger extracts, pea peptides
Benefits: Non-irritating, vegan, contains B3 and antioxidants, affordable, neutral fragrance
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Emulsion 2%
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid, formerly known as Advanced Retinoid 2% is an affordable retinol serum that encompasses the power of two distinct forms of retinol.
With its non-irritating formula, it effortlessly permeates the skin, leaving behind no sticky or tacky residue. While 2 per cent retinol is the highest concentration of retinol, this is a highly effective moderate-strength retinoid with a low level of irritation.
This incredibly affordable serum is suited for anyone looking to address skin texture, blemishes, ageing skin or pigmentation. Many users have found it to have “transformed” their skin, leaving their skin looking smoother, hydrated and glowing.
Retinol Concentration: 2%
Formulation: Creamy emulsion serum
Key Ingredients: Granactive Retinoid (HPR), retinol, Rosemary leaf extract, Tasmanian Pepper Extract
Benefits: Highly effective and low irritation, very affordable, fast-absorbing creamy texture, fragrance-free
Dr. Naomi Skin Vitamin Amen
Vitamin Amen from Dr. Naomi Skin is a powerhouse retinol serum for targeting visible signs of ageing.
In this unique formula, they have complemented Multi-level Vitamin A (Retinol & Retinoate) with 1% Bakuchiol (a plant-derived retinol alternative) to improve the efficacy and longevity of the retinol. The addition of Dr Naomi Skin’s Proprietary Brightening cocktail targets pigmentations and improves skin clarity.
This combination of ingredients results in a powerful serum that rejuvenates and brightens the skin. Dubbed a “container of magic” this is ideal for those with problematic or congested skin and those looking to target fine lines and wrinkles or rough texture.
From the consistency to the packaging Vitamin Amen has a ‘luxe’ feel and we love that it comes in eco-friendly refills.
Retinol Concentration: 0.5%
Key Ingredients: Micro-encapsulated Retinol & Retinoate, Bakuchiol, Niacinamide
Benefits: Potent and effective retinol formulation, contains proprietary brightening cocktail, comes in refills
Skinstitut EXPERT Reveal Retinol Face Oil
Australian skincare brand Skinstitut, released their EXPERT range (identified by the purple packaging), with their Retinol Face Oil quickly becoming the hero product. This overnight treatment is clinically proven to improve skin firmness and elasticity and help promote healthy collagen production.
The key ingredients in the Skinstitut EXPERT Reveal Retinol Face Oil are retinyl palmitate and retinol (two forms of Vitamin A), which work in synergy to reduce the look of irritation and redness that often accompanies retinol use. Vitamin E is also included in the formulation to nourish and replenish the skin while offering a calming effect. Finally, macadamia oil is included to hydrate and plump the look of the skin deeply.
If you’re someone who loves facial oil but wants something with greater efficacy for treating ageing and skin concerns, then this product is for you. This medium to high-strength retinol (equivalent to 0.9%) is suitable for most skin types, except for oily and very sensitive skin.
The main appeal of this retinol is its texture. It has a luxurious oil consistency and a nutty fragrance. It’s a great product to use for face massage or gua sha.
Retinol Concentration: 0.9%
Formulation: Oil serum
Key Ingredients: Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol, Vitamin E, Macadamia Oil
Benefits: Luxurious oil consistency, contains 2 types of Vitamin A
Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Face Serum
The Retinol24 Night Serum is a top-rated serum part of the anti-ageing Olay Regenerist collection. This OTC retinol is just as effective as high-end offerings and you can find it on sale frequently.
It contains a blend of retinol and retinyl propionate, a less potent retinoid with gentler properties. Olay has created this line with gentleness in mind because they discovered that more than half of women who used retinol stopped within a month.
This retinol serum does everything a good vitamin A product does: smoothen fine lines, firm up the skin, target any uneven skin tone and texture, fade dark spots and shrink pores. It’s a hydrating serum that uses vitamin B3 to complement the effects of the active ingredients.
Don’t expect rapid results with this serum because it most likely contains a very low retinol percentage. Try this if you’re dipping your toes in the retinoid world.
Retinol Concentration: Retinyl propionate (0.3%) and retinol (undisclosed amount but taking the total not far above 0.3%)
Key Ingredients: Retinyl propionate and retinol, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), amino peptides
Benefits: Fragrance-free, contains hydrating ingredients, affordable, non-greasy
Skinstitut always brings a solid range of products, and that includes their retinol offering, one of the best retinol serums widely available in Australia. It uses an encapsulated form of retinol that preserves potency while reducing harshness. This is effective for both acne-prone and oily skin types while addressing visible signs of ageing.
Peptides give the gel serum a boost and stimulate collagen production which gives you bouncy, youthful skin. The product treats acne by regulating sebum production and encouraging the skin to produce new skin cells. It’s good for all skin types, especially if you’re dealing with pigmentation and signs of ageing.
It has a gel-serum consistency that’s a bit thick. Once you rub it into the skin, it stays tacky but leaves a powdery film, which some may like while others may loathe.
It’s also important to note that it has a fragrance, which may irritate sensitive skin.
Another potential downside is the lack of moisturising ingredients. If you’re after a budget-friendly retinol cream, this is amazing but be sure to use hydrating products after.
Retinol Concentration: 0.25%
Formulation: Gel serum
Key Ingredients: Retinol, Peptides
Benefits: Lightweight texture and sinks into the skin easily, gentle formulation
Best Retinol Cream Australia
Drunk Elephant – A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream
If you’re looking for a moisturising vegan retinol serum, the Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream will be very much up your alley. It contains 1% retinol and is known to be highly, highly effective, making it ideal for those looking to step up from a beginner product.
The potent concentration (1 per cent) is softened by the inclusion of passionfruit, kale, winter cherry, marula and jojoba oil for moisturising and antioxidant benefits.
With frequent use, the A-Passioni Retinol Cream will bring a glow to the skin and refine its texture. It also helps to fade hyperpigmentation and acne scars. It also contains free radical-fighting xanthophylls and a skin-nourishing blend of peptides, perfect for eradicating signs of sun damage. Niacinamide helps minimise creases, furrows, and lines, improves skin tone and reduces sallowness and blotchiness.
The best advice for using this one — ease into it! Many users have found it to be their “go-to retinol”, however, it’s important to use a small amount, and build up a tolerance before using.
Retinol Concentration: 1%
Key Ingredients: 1% vegan retinol, Vitamin F, glycerine, niacinamide, stearic acid and jojoba oil
Benefits: Multi-benefit formula, vegan, fragrance-free
Eucerin, Q10 Anti-Wrinkle + Pro-Retinol Night Cream
(Price at time of publish)
Our pick for a retinol cream suited to sensitive skin types comes from the experts in sensitive skin skincare, Eucerin. While this brand isn’t as renowned as some leading Australian skincare brands, its retinol cream is rated #1 on iHerb for best retinol creams and has almost 11,000 customer reviews.
While you sleep, this little cream gets to work. Retinol targets fine lines and wrinkles and Vitamin E provides antioxidant benefits and helps to protect the skin against free radicals.
The cream is designed to moisturise, rejuvenate and protect skin, ultimately improving the overall health of your skin.
This combination and consistency also makes it ideal for those with mature skin types, looking to restore moisture loss and address signs of ageing.
Specially formulated to be gentle and non-irritating, this retinol cream is fragrance-free, paraben-free, and dye-free and won’t clog pores.
Retinol Concentration: Not stated, likely >1%
Key Ingredients: Retinyl palmitate, glycerin, shea butter, macadamia oil
Benefits: Suited to those with sensitive skin, Fragrance, alcohol and dye-free, affordable
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Facial Night Cream
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream is an impressive anti-aging product with powerful results. The brand claims you can reduce the look of deep wrinkles in 12 weeks, and looking at many other user reviews, a lot of people would back this claim up.
The non-greasy cream contains pure RoC Retinol and an essential mineral complex leaving your skin looking and feeling plumper, brighter, smoother and more youthful. They have incorporated ingredients like glycerin, shea butter, squalane and glycerin for moisturising benefits without being greasy.
Retinol Concentration: Not stated, likely >1%
Key Ingredients: Retinol, Shea Butter, Squalane and Glycerin
Benefits: Affordable, Non-Comedogenic, contains moisturising ingredients
Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment
Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment is a high-strength retinol with a unique delivery system to target skin concerns like wrinkles, fine lines, large pores and discolouration thanks to a formulation of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, hyaluronic acid and peptides.
Its light lotion texture also helps hydrate skin, making it look more youthful and rejuvenated. The product contains other nourishing ingredients, such as licorice and oat extracts, to help reduce skin redness.
It’s important to note that this is a very high-strength retinol and some users experience irritation, so definitely ease into using it. You can always build up.
Retinol Concentration: 1%
Key Ingredients: Retinol, Oat, Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin, Peptide complex
Benefits: Fragrance-Free, Silky texture, protective packaging, multi-purpose formula
Guide to Retinol: Facts, Tips and How-Tos
The Retinoid Family
As we mentioned above, retinol belongs to a family of retinoids, a term for topical vitamin A derivatives which include tretinoin and retinyl palmitate. That’s right, there’s more than one kind of vitamin A.
The strongest ones are prescription products like tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene (though over-the-counter ones also exist). Retinol is easily accessible and you don’t need to go to a dermatologist to buy it.
Retinol is one of the weaker retinoid products and thus, is less harsh. Despite its skin-friendliness, you reap the same benefits as higher-strength retinoids but sacrifice a bit of the wrinkle-fighting effects.
What percentage of retinol is most effective?
Here are the strengths of retinol, ranked from the most gentle to the most potent.
0.01% - 0.03%
Best for beginners and those with sensitive skin.
0.04% - 0.1%
Best for regular users of retinol looking to target skin concerns.
0.5% - 2%
Best for those with high tolerance and tough skin.
Best for beginners: 0.01% – 0.03%
These are the lowest concentrations of retinol. Start with this if you are not attuned to the sensitivity of your skin or if you’re completely new to using retinol.
Best for people who want more effects: 0.04% – 0.1%
When you want to take it to the next level, go for creams and serums with more advanced concentrations. If, after a few weeks with the beginner percentage, you find that you don’t have any telltale signs of irritation like redness or peeling, you can bump it up to a higher percentage. This will give you more benefits for wrinkles, and other problems, and you will see quicker results.
Best for people who can tolerate retinol well: 0.5% – 2%
This is the highest dose of retinol, which is great for tough skin that tolerates retinol well. You have to be even more careful with adding this concentration to your routine because, with a more potent dose, you also get more irritation. Remember, you will still get effects with a lower concentration, just at a slower pace, so go slow and be patient.
Frequently Asked Questions
There can be a lot to consider when it comes to integrating a retinol product into your routine. Finding the best product can depend on your skin type, tolerance and concerns.
To help clarify choosing and using a retinol product, Kristina Gianneas helped us answer some frequently asked questions.
What’s better, a retinol serum or a cream?
“A retinol serum and a retinol cream both have their place on the market, as it really depends on which option is more suitable for your skin’s needs” Gianneas explained.
“This could depend on the percentage of vitamin A in the product and how it is delivered. A serum could be lightweight and more suitable for layering in your routine, whereas a thicker cream with vitamin A might be more beneficial if you are new to vitamin A, or prefer a simple routine with fewer steps”.
She emphasised the benefit of consulting with a skin specialist if you are really unsure about what product might be right for you.
Are there any side effects of using retinol?
With the benefits of retinol, can also come side effects, particularly for beginners and those with skin sensitivities.
Gianneas notes what you may encounter when using retinol, “As retinol speeds the skin’s cell turnover when introducing it into your routine you may feel dry, flakey, or slight redness upon application. Using too much too quickly can lead to irritations that cause itchy, flakey, red patches”.
She noted the importance of slowly introducing retinol into your routine, “Use it only every second or third night and gradually build the frequency over time”.
“The full effect of using retinol consistently can take up to 3 months or even longer, so it is important to stick to regular use and have patience for that youthful glow you will achieve”.
What’s the best way to use retinol?
Along with building up slowly when introducing retinol into your routine and applying it at night, Gianneas emphasises skin protection when it comes to using retinol products:
“It is very important to be wearing SPF every day and even more so when using active ingredients such as vitamin A as it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun”. Broad Spectrum SPF and avoiding sun exposure where possible is a must when it comes to using retinol.
She added a final and important note to consult experts when it comes to skin and health issues, particularly for mums: “Generally, it is not advised to be using retinol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding however see your doctor for further advice”.
What’s your favourite retinol serum or cream? Let me know in the comments!
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